The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of episode 17, titled:
By Chris Brennan
Episode originally released on June 10, 2014 at the following URL:
Note: This is a transcript of an audio podcast. We strongly encourage you to listen to the audio version, which includes inflections that may not translate well when written out. Transcripts are created by using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and the text probably contains some errors and differences from the audio version. Please submit any corrections to Chris Brennan by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Transcribed by Tracy Thornton
Transcription released May 14, 2016
Copyright © 2016 Chris Brennan
Hi, my name is Chris Brennan, and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. Today is Monday, June 9th, 2014, here in Denver, Colorado at approximately 10:20 pm as I’m starting this recording, and this is the 17th episode of the show. You can find the show at TheAstrologyPodcast.com and you can also listen to us on iTunes.
Today, I’m doing a solo show and my topic is the rationale underlying the significations of the twelve houses. We’re largely going to be focusing on the difference between the ancient and modern paradigms, and how ancient astrologers viewed and actually had a whole conceptual apparatus for determining the significations of the twelve houses that was a lot different than the way that modern astrologers conceptualize or derive the significations of each of the twelve houses. And I’ve been wrestling with some issues recently related to those two different paradigms, and whether we should attempt to reconcile them, or whether we should keep them as separate approaches that different people can adopt. So that’s going to be the primary focus of today’s show.
News and Announcements
Before I get into that, I have a few pieces of news and announcements that I wanted to make, and then we’ll get on to the main topic. First off, sorry I haven’t recorded a new show for a while. Over the past few months, I’ve been focusing on—I’m going through my first Saturn return right now and I’m actually really focused on getting together and finalizing some of my thoughts on Hellenistic astrology. And one of the things I’ve been doing is revising my online Introduction to Hellenistic Astrology course and adding a bunch of new lectures to it. I’m in the process of expanding it into a 10-part course that offers some certification once you complete it. So, instead of recording podcasts, I’ve basically been recording these very long, 10-hour lectures on different topics, like the ruler of the Ascendant in each of the twelve houses; the rulers of the houses when they’re in different houses other than their own, such as the ruler of the 7th in the 10th, or the ruler of the 10th in the 3rd, and so on and so forth; as well as more esoteric, traditional astrology lectures for the Hellenistic course, such as the triplicity rulers of the sect light and using those in order to determine a person’s eminence, or the foundation of their nativity. So that’s been my main focus. So if you’re missing me, for some reason, talk about different astrological topics, then you might want to look at some of those online lectures, because I am actually continuing to record stuff there, but I’ve got to spread my time evenly between doing this podcast for free and doing other things like that course and other lectures for the purpose of having a career and getting by. So right now I’m getting ready to turn the course into a full course that offers certification, and at that point, I’m going to raise the price on the course to be a bit more, quite a bit more, than it is now. But I did want to announce that if anybody wants to sign up for the course now while it’s still at the lower price, you’ll have access to all of the material that you’ll have access to later, but, basically, if you get in now, you’ll be able to sign up for a lower price. So you can find out more about the course on my websites:
Other Astrology News
In other news, I just got back from the Northwest Astrology Conference this year, in late May, and it was a great conference. I think Kent Bye is going to be releasing a series of lectures that—not lectures, interviews—that he did with different speakers and different people at the Northwest Astrology Conference. I will put a link to his page up as soon as that’s available, since I always really enjoy his interviews.
And speaking of conferences, the International Society for Astrological Research is holding a large conference in Phoenix in September of 2014. And that’s probably gonna be the biggest conference of the year. It has tons of speakers who are flying in from around the world, and should be a really interesting event. I’m actually giving two lectures at the conference, and I’m also giving a post-conference workshop that’s going to focus on using ancient astrological techniques in modern practice. So, what we’re going to do is go through the full overview of how to use traditional astrology in practice, and how to actually apply it as a complete system, and what that looks like when you’re actually applying it to charts within the context of a consultation. So we’ll be using lots of example charts, and we’ll also be talking not just about techniques but also about some broader philosophical and ethical issues that come up during the process of practicing the type of astrology that comes from 2,000 years ago in the 21st century. For example, the ethics of predictions, and certain things, some things that just because you can say, whether or not you should say certain things about what you know about a person’s life. You can find out more information about that workshop and about that conference in general on the ISAR website, which I’ll put a link to on the page for this episode on The Astrology Podcast website.
Other than that, the last piece of news is that a couple months ago in April I gave a new lecture that I had been preparing it for quite a while on rectification. In it I provide a quick way and systematic way to rectify a person’s chart if you have some general sense of what part of the day they were born in. So basically, if you have, let’s say, a six or seven hour time span in which you know the native is born, how to narrow it down and determine the correct rising sign based on looking at the different charts that are available, and a sort of easy and systematic method that anybody could use in order to rectify a chart in order to determine what their correct rising sign is, and thus what time they were born within a one or two hour time span. So if you’d like to listen to that lecture, it’s available for sale on my website:
The Origins of the Significations of the Houses
That’s it for the news and announcements, so let’s get into the main topic of the show, which is the issue of the origins of the significations of the houses, or, in other words, the rationale for why each of the twelve houses means what it means in astrology. This actually turns out to be a pretty big topic. And most people aren’t aware of how complicated and how difficult of a subject this is, both from a historical standpoint as well as to a certain extent from a conceptual standpoint—that it’s a lot more complicated than most of the textbooks on astrology let on today. I think that most of us read the textbooks on astrology, and they give the significations the houses and it seems pretty straightforward. And, for the most part, especially in modern times, they’re not that different from the significations of each of the signs of the zodiac, since most of the significations of the houses in modern astrology are actually derived from the signs of the zodiac and from the planets associated with those signs. What most people don’t realize though is this wasn’t the way it was in traditional astrology. This is only kind of a recent development, in the past few hundred years, that all of the significations of the houses are largely derived from the so-called 12-letter alphabet that equates each of the 12 signs with one of the 12 houses. For example, the 12-letter alphabet is the conceptual construct where the planet Mars is equated to the sign of the zodiac Aries, which is equated then to the first house. So, because Aries is the first sign of the tropical zodiac, it gets associated with the first house of the 12 houses. And because Taurus is the second sign of the tropical zodiac, Taurus gets associated with the second house, in each of the 12 houses measured out from the Ascendant. So that’s what I’ll refer to as the “12-letter alphabet approach,” and that approach has really flourished, especially over the course of the past hundred years, and even more so in the past, I would say, 30 to 40 years, especially in the past 30 years. So that really has become the primary, and in some instances almost the only, access point that most modern astrologers have for figuring out the significations of the houses and for determining what they signify. So, for example, the third house is said to signify lower education, like elementary or primary school, because it’s associated with Mercury and Gemini, whereas college and university and higher education gets associated with the ninth house because of being associated with Jupiter and Sagittarius, and other such associations like that. The 10th house is associated with one’s career, largely due to the associations with Saturn and Capricorn, and the fourth house is associated with the home and the living situation and the parents, largely due to the association with the sign Cancer, which is associated with the Moon. So, that’s the access point for most modern astrologers for the meanings of the houses.
However, one of the first things that most people learn when they get into traditional astrology, and one of the most jarring things when you start, when you go back, let’s say, three or four hundred years—even if you just go back to William Lilly, who wrote the first English textbook on astrology, which was titled Christian Astrology, in, I think, 1647—even if you only go back that far, you start to notice that the significations of some of the houses are a bit different. They’re a bit more limited, and there’s not as many significations that are exact parallels with the signs of the zodiac. There’s a few, admittedly, that seem to almost crossover or be very similar, but he’s certainly not clearly referring to the signs of the zodiac in order to derive the significations of the houses. And in some instances, this leads to major differences in what each of the houses signify, compared to the modern tradition. This tendency, and this difference, or this divide between the ancient and modern traditions grows and actually gets worse the further back in the astrological tradition you go. So, if you go all the way back past the medieval period into the ancient Greco-Roman period, into the Hellenistic period, or to what usually historians of astrology call Hellenistic astrology, which is the type of astrology that was practiced from approximately the first century BCE to until approximately the sixth or seventh century CE—that’s what we’re going to refer to as Hellenistic astrology, which is largely practiced during the Roman Empire, although most of the texts of that tradition were written in Greek. So if you go all the way back to that tradition, which is essentially when the houses, the concept of the 12 houses appears to have been introduced—prior to this time in the Mesopotamian tradition, we don’t have evidence of the Mesopotamian astrologers using houses, even though they did have the zodiac, and they did have the concept of birth charts—so as far as we can tell, the concept of houses is first, let’s say invented or developed or conceptualized for the most part in the early Hellenistic tradition, somewhere around the first century BCE. And what’s interesting is you can actually figure out, and people have done a lot of work, you actually don’t have to do that much work because it says it pretty explicitly right in the texts, what the rationale is for each of the significations of the houses, and additionally, what the conceptual structure is, or what the motivation is for why they’re coming up with certain significations for certain houses.
In the original conceptualization of the houses, it seems to break down to just three motivating factors in order to determine what the significations of each of the houses are. The first is angularity. So, is the house in question angular, cadent, or succedent? This conceptualization is known in modern astrology but there’s some parts of it that aren’t very well understood, or at least it’s not understood or conceptualized fully in the same way today as it was 2,000 years ago. One of the ways that this worked is that each of the 12 houses, they were all grouped into four sets of three, which are sometimes referred to as today, or I prefer to refer as angular triads. This is a term that was coined by Robert Schmidt in order to define something that was commonly used by the astrologers who wrote in Greek and Latin in the Hellenistic period, where they would group the signs into sets of three that consisted of one cadent house, followed by one angular house, followed by one succedent house. So, for example, the angular triad that’s associated with the Midheaven starts with the ninth house, which is said to be a cadent or declining house, then it is followed by the 10th house, which is the Midheaven itself, or let’s say 10th whole sign house, then it’s followed by the final house of that angular triad, which is the 11th house, which is the succedent house. So what you get there is this conceptualization that planets in the ninth house are literally falling or declining away from the Midheaven, so they’re falling from the highest part of the chart, away from the angle, and they’re sloping downwards, and literally starting to move downwards toward the seventh house, or towards the setting part of the chart. So planets in cadent houses were conceptualized as declining or falling away in some sense. And that actually becomes one of the reasons why cadent houses are still traditionally today associated as being, or thought to be, not as active as angular placements or succedent placements. It’s because planets in cadent houses are falling away from the angular houses, so they’re falling away from the sector of the chart that’s conceptualized as being more active and more prominent and more stable. So you start with the cadent house, then you move to the angular house, which is the middle of the sequence, and is the most active and stable part of the sequence, right at the angles, which are the first house, 10th house, seventh house, and fourth house. And then eventually you move on to the succedent houses. So for example, one of the succedent houses in the 11th house; planets in the 11th house are literally rising up to, or building up to, the 10th house. So planets in succedent houses are all generally conceptualized in traditional astrology as increasing in power over time, or signifying things that develop over time, with a little bit of delay. They’re things that will happen in the future, essentially, or at some later point after the initial point indicated by the chart. So this is actually part of, it’s not the entirety of, but is a little glimpse into the original conceptualization of angularity, which is one of the concepts underlying the original significations of the houses. So that’s one concept that feeds into where the original significations come from.
The other concept is, is the house configured to the rising sign by one of the Ptolemaic aspects? So by a conjunction, sextile, square, trine, or opposition. And what you’ll see certain ancient authors like Firmicus Maternus point out is that all of the houses that are configured to the rising sign by one of these major aspects signifies positive things, and they conceptualize those and actually refer to those houses as the good houses, because they’re configured to the rising sign. In ancient astrology, they didn’t conceptualize the entire chart as indicating the person or indicating different parts of the person’s psyche, but instead, the first house was a little bit more limited. So it was the first house, primarily, which signified the native and their body and their physical and mental vitality. Whereas other houses in the chart, the other 11 houses were thought to signify different parts of the person’s life, such as career, or relationships or what have you, or, more prominently, other people in the person’s life, or other circumstances in the person’s life, like spouse, children, parents, siblings, etc. So that’s why, that’s one of the reasons why planets that were in houses themselves that were configured to the rising sign were thought to be supportive of the life of the native and supportive of the native’s physical and mental vitality, whereas houses that are not configured to the Ascendant were thought to be unsupportive of the native’s life and vitality. This is why, for example, the 12th house, the eighth house, and the sixth house were generally associated with negative significations, like loss, death, and illness. It’s because those houses are not configured to the rising sign according to one of these major Ptolemaic aspects. To a certain extent, the second house was also conceptualized as a negative house originally, because it does not aspect the Ascendant, although there’s some mitigations and some reasons why it was usually referred to as one of the least negative of the four bad houses, the four negative houses.
Right there already, you can start to see part of the conceptualization of a motivating factor for understanding why the fifth house, which is trine to the Ascendant, would be conceptualized as more positive than, for example, let’s say, the sixth house, which does not aspect the Ascendant through any major aspect. In modern terminology, we would say it would be inconjunct the Ascendant, or the rising sign, but that was not conceptualized as an aspect in traditional astrology, for good reasons, because aspects were originally conceptualized as an affinity between the signs that each of the planets was placed in. And what you’ll notice is that in the traditional aspect doctrine, each of the major aspects involves two signs that share some sort of affinity, either by gender, by element (earth, air, fire, and water), or by quadruplicty, which is cardinal, fixed, or mutable.
So, for example, let’s say Scorpio and Cancer are in trine, and what those two signs share in common is they’re both water signs, they’re both feminine signs. So that then becomes part of the rationale for their connection and why they’re able to share a relationship, or why planets in those signs are able to share a relationship, due to that affinity between the signs. Planets that are in signs that are inconjunct share none of those affinities, either by gender, by modality, or by quadruplicity. As a result of that, there’s a lack of connection or a lack of relationship because of a lack of ability to relate to the other part of the chart or to the other planet. That’s one part of this: configuration to the rising sign and whether the house is seen to be supportive of the person’s life or not supportive of the person’s life.
Finally, the third consideration, which I’ve written a lot about over the past two years, I guess two or three years, is the joys of the planets. This was a very important concept because this was actually the original set of planetary assignments, where they assigned each of the seven traditional planets or each of the seven visible planets to one of the twelve houses. For example, Mercury was assigned to the first house, the Moon to the third house, Venus to the fifth, Mars to the sixth, the Sun to the ninth, Jupiter to the 11th, and Saturn to the 12th. So, what I pointed out about a year and a half ago, in a paper that I published in the ISAR journal that’s actually available on my website, is that some of the original significations for the houses were actually derived from these planetary assignments. They actually had a very elaborate rationale for these planetary assignments, and the planetary assignments of the planets to each of these houses appears to have been introduced very early on in the astrological tradition, potentially prior to the development of the concept of the houses. So what you get then is that basically the concept of the houses is introduced–the concept of the twelve houses didn’t exist, but then it was introduced and right around the same time that it was introduced, somebody came up with this set of planetary assignments, of assigning each of the seven traditional planets to one house each. As a result of that, these planetary assignments actually informed some of the significations of the houses. So for example, Venus is said to signify, or the fifth house is said to signify children, and being able to have children, partially due to the fact that Venus is associated with the fifth house. The 11th house is associated with friendship and alliances partially because Jupiter is associated with the 11th house. So, other associations of the 11th house, for example, the 11th house is usually associated with gains and acquisition, the acquisition of goods and good things. Whereas the 12th house, which is associated with Saturn, is usually associated with loss, and the loss of good things, basically.
Other associations…for example, the medieval astrologers definitely got some of the associations of, for example, long distance travel from the fact that the ninth house was associated with the Sun, which takes an entire year to move around the zodiac, which is relatively slow, compared to the Moon, which was assigned to the third house, and the Moon only takes one month in order to do a complete lap around the zodiac. So, relative to those two placements, where the Sun is associated with the ninth, and the Moon is associated with the third, they came up with short distance travel being associated with the third house and long distance travel being associated with the ninth because of those assignments. Now, you’ll notice there right away that it’s kind of interesting because modern astrologers derive that from the assignments of Jupiter to the ninth house and Mercury to the third house. But here, you start to see the issue that I’m talking about in the difference between the ancient and modern tradition, where from what we can tell, the modern concept of the 12-letter alphabet, where you would associate, for example, Gemini and Mercury with the third house, and Jupiter and Sagittarius with the ninth house. It doesn’t actually show up until the Renaissance, basically, until especially by the 16th and 17th century. It’s certainly there by the time of William Lilly where he at least mentions it; even if he doesn’t seem to use it very much, he does mention that Aries can be a co-significator of the first house, and Taurus can be a co-significator of the second house, and so on and so forth. What people don’t realize, though, about that, and the significance of that—it isn’t until Lilly and some of his contemporaries, maybe a little bit earlier contemporaries, that this scheme of the 12-letter alphabet starts getting mentioned—is that that’s extremely late in the astrological tradition in the broad sense of things. Because what you have to remember, when we’re talking about the history of the use of the 12 houses, is that they were introduced somewhere way back around the first century. So we’re talking about the houses originally introduced 2,000 years ago, but the 12-letter alphabet doesn’t really show up until around the 1600s. So literally 1,600 years later, after the houses are first introduced, is when we first start seeing the 12-letter alphabet conceptualization starting to make its way into the astrological tradition in any serious sense, where it’s starting to be used apparently, or evidently, as a conceptual construct. And even at that point, some people, such as Deborah Houlding, have argued that Lilly doesn’t really even draw on it that much, that he mentions it but that he doesn’t really even use it as a motivating factor for deriving the significations of the houses. I definitely agree that it’s not really until the 20th century, so it’s not really even until the last hundred years that, with people like Alan Leo and then especially subsequent people like Dane Rudhyar and virtually every astrologer over the past 30 or 40 years, starts using the 12-letter alphabet as their primary access point for understanding the signification of the houses.
So what I’m emphasizing and what I’m pointing out here is that’s incredibly recent in the long history of astrology. But most people don’t realize that and they just assume that that’s the way it’s always been, so they just assume that’s how astrology’s always been, and that it’s a given, that it’s not even something you really question, because it’s just treated as something that’s sort of self-evident, that Gemini’s associated with the third house and Sagittarius with the ninth, and Capricorn with the 10th, and so on and so forth, and there’s not any real way to conceptualize in many instances. If you took that away from people, if you said, “You can use the houses but you can’t refer back to the signs of the zodiac, you have to come up with your own way of deriving the significations for each of the houses without relying on that,” many astrologers would be completely at a loss, and they wouldn’t know what to do or where to derive the significations from. That’s interesting because on the one hand, getting into traditional astrology, that presents a bit of a problem because you have to rebuild your understanding of the houses based on other principles and without reference to the 12-letter alphabet, and without reference to the zodiac. Which is a bit of a, I don’t want to say a bit of a challenge, it’s a bit of a challenge in terms of unlearning everything that you had learned and assumed about the houses previously, and then trying to rebuild your understanding of the houses purely based on the conceptual structure that’s offered by traditional astrology, which is angularity, configuration to the rising sign, and the joys of the planets. Which surprisingly actually provides you with a lot of the significations of the houses. When you really dig deep into the symbolism and the astronomical meaning underlying those three considerations, you can actually come up with most of the core significations of the houses that have been part of the astrological tradition over the past 2,000 years. But that’s exactly what’s interesting, as I used that example earlier, where, for example, medieval astrologers came up with the association of short distance travel because the Moon was associated with the third house, and long distance travel with the ninth because the Sun was associated with the ninth house. However, modern astrologers also associate the third house with short distance travel and the ninth house with long distance travel, but they do that because they’re deriving it from Mercury in the third and Jupiter in the ninth. That’s one of the ways in which modern astrologers have inherited some of the traditional significations of the houses and by some weird coincidence, many of them actually still make sense, or are still more or less conceptually consistent, and pretty much the same, like short distance and long distance travel, but they’re being attributed to, or they’re being derived from a completely different conceptual construct. So there’s a bit of an issue there, because if it was all like that, where there’s just, like, complete overlap, and it didn’t matter which reference system you’re using because the significations were all the same, then there would be no problem, and this wouldn’t be worth talking about. But the problem is that they don’t always completely overlap, and in many instances they can contrast with each other pretty dramatically. Let’s take an example. This gets a little complicated also because of the introduction of the outer planets, starting with Uranus and then with Neptune and then with Pluto, and the subsequent moves to reassign the rulership of Pisces and Aquarius and Scorpio to those outer planets adds an additional complication, because then many of the significations of the houses then get rewritten to a certain extent in order to accommodate those new outer planet assignments so that in those instances, sometimes the house significations are dramatically different than the traditional significations because they’re not even associating the same planets with the same signs of the zodiac necessarily. So that becomes a separate issue.
To bring this back to the original point, when I got into Hellenistic astrology, let’s back it up about 10 years, so it’s, what, 2014 right now, so we’re coming up on the 10 year anniversary of when I got into Hellenistic astrology, when basically I was a modern astrologer. I went to Kepler College fresh out of high school, fully intending on studying modern, Western, psychological astrology, and having zero interest in traditional forms of astrology, because I assumed that astrology had grown and evolved, and that we’d moved past that. And that traditional astrology was no longer useful for a number of different reasons, and that it was outdated. So once I got to a certain point in my second year at Kepler, they basically forced me to study traditional astrology because they didn’t have the psychological track ready yet. Although we—me and my classmates—protested, we really didn’t have a choice. We ended up having to take this introduction to Hellenistic and Indian astrology. Very quickly, once I got into it and I started learning Hellenistic astrology, I got very excited about it and very interested in it, because it presented a bunch of conceptual models that explained the origins, the true origins of a bunch of different astrological concepts, including the origins of the significations of the houses, the true origins of most of the significations of the houses. So, at that point, I began trying to rebuild my understanding of astrology based on the original conceptualization of it and the original model of astrology, because that’s one of the things that appealed to me about Hellenistic astrology is that it was, at some point—and then there’s debates about this; I think if you listen to this show I had, or the interview I had with Robert Hand, we talked about this a little bit, where there’s debates about whether Hellenistic astrology represents a gradual development or sudden invention. But aside from that debate, Hellenistic astrology is remarkably well-integrated, and the techniques are remarkably well-integrated into each other, so that it certainly comes off as a systematic construct for essentially interpreting a person’s fate, which was the purpose of looking at a person’s birth chart. Or as another way of stating what you’re doing when you’re looking at a person’s birth chart and trying to make statements about their life.
So many of the techniques were integrated, and this appealed to me, and one of the things that I did is start trying to rebuild my understanding of different parts of astrology purely based on this original system, or this original approach to it. One of the things I then tried to throw out, then, was my understanding of the houses based on the 12-letter alphabet, because I discovered this huge issue, and I basically realized that it’s only in the past hundred years that astrologers completely switched to this alternate conceptual model, where they basically just treated the signs and the houses as the same thing. And basically all their significations were seen as interchangeable, which is kind of problematic once you think about it for a little bit. There’s something about that that’s a little bit problematic because they’re completely different reference systems, they’re completely different frames of reference, where the zodiac is based on the ecliptic, and the path of the Sun and the path of the planets from our perspective on earth, whereas the houses are actually based on the diurnal motion of the planets, which is where the planets will rise over the eastern horizon and culminate above head and then set each day, and how they’ll continually repeat that cycle every 24 hours. Their movement on the zodiac takes much longer and is much more variable depending on how fast the planet is moving and whether it’s retrograde or direct, or what have you. So that becomes part of the traditional astrologer’s objection to the way that modern astrologers equate the signs and the houses as being basically the same, or having completely interchangeable significations. The objection is that they’re completely different reference systems that probably shouldn’t be treated entirely as interchangeable. There’s gotta be something different about them, because you’re literally looking at completely different things from an astronomical standpoint, that have different time periods involved, that have different measurements, and that have different movements. That’s one of the things about astrology that’s really important to me, and that definitely appeals to me about traditional astrology, is that all of the things in astrology, everything that means something in astrology, and everything that you draw an interpretation from, is derived from some actual, tangible, astronomical placement or some sort of astronomical movement, or condition. For example, planets that are too close to the Sun, which are said to be under the beams, are said to signify things that happen in secret. So for example, if the ruler of the seventh house of marriage, which signifies marriage in a person’s chart, is under the beams of the Sun, one of the delineations might be that the person will have relationships in secret. And that’s because planets, when they get too close to the Sun, literally get overpowered and get blocked out, so that you literally cannot see them when they’re too close to the Sun. So the fact that they cannot be seen and that they become sort of literally hidden under the beams of the Sun, then, has this symbolic interpretation in terms of the person’s life, and in terms of the specific topics that that planet is associated [with] in the person’s life.
What I’m emphasizing there is just that almost everything, and most things in traditional astrology, have some sort of specific astronomical basis that they go back to, that they’re deriving the symbolism from. And that’s exactly what astrology is, and that most of astrology and most of the techniques of astrology are either developed from things like that, or they’re developed from other conceptual models that are built around things like that. For example, there’s sort of a hierarchy of—I don’t know if this is a good example because it might be too complicated—but there’s some houses that are seen to be the best, and then there’s a sort of spectrum of houses that are seen to be the worst. This is largely derived from the conceptual model that has to do with two things, with angularity and with configuration to the Ascendant, or to the rising sign. So the 12th house is thought to be the worst of the bad houses. And the sixth house is also thought to be one of the worst, but it’s better than the 12th. And then the eighth house is next in order, and so on and so forth. The rationale for this is that the 12th house is the worst of the worst because it’s both a cadent house and it is not configured to the Ascendant, and it’s also only weakly configured to the Midheaven by a sextile. So that becomes the rationale, those three considerations become the rationale for why the 12th house is the most negative of the negative houses. The sixth house, on the other hand, you’ll notice it fits two of those criteria, but it doesn’t fit the third. So the sixth house is a cadent or declining house, which is negative, like the 12th; it also does not aspect the Ascendant, like the 12th; however, it aspects the Midheaven or the 10th house by a superior trine, so it has a strong configuration to the Midheaven, and therefore as a result of that is conceptualized as being more positive than the 12th house, which only has a weaker, inferior sextile to the 10th house, or to the Midheaven. And so that’s more of what I would refer to not as a purely astronomical basis for deriving the symbolism of what the houses signify, or are supposed to mean, but I would classify that as more of a conceptual rationale for deriving the significations of what the houses are supposed to mean. And I think it’s a valid conceptual rationale and what appeals to me about it is that it gives you a reason. So it doesn’t just give you a rule. So for example, in some traditions of astrology, like Indian astrology, I find that sometimes they have a lot of rules for things, but they don’t have, they’re not really big on giving you the reason for it or the rationale for it. That’s just the way it is. Or in modern astrology, for example, you have the Sabian symbols: each of the degrees of the zodiac is said to mean specific things, and there’s certain little brief delineations for them, but there’s not really a rationale for it. Because the Sabian symbols weren’t developed from some sort of either astronomical or conceptual model, but instead, if I understand the story correctly, the astrologer Marc Edmund Jones just sat down on a park bench one day with a hat, and he sat with a psychic or a channel, and then they pulled cards out of this hat, and then that’s how he came up with the Sabian symbols. So that’s neither an astronomical basis, there’s neither an astronomical basis for deriving that, nor is there a conceptual basis for deriving it. There’s just some, you know, depending on your perspective, either, let’s say, mystical (best case scenario) or (worst case scenario) kind of wacky rationale for deriving that specific astrological technique.
Where I’m going with this is that one of the things that appealed to me about Hellenistic astrology, and going back to the original tradition of astrology, is that you could see that all of the techniques were either being derived from astronomical considerations or from conceptual considerations. That’s the reason why I decided to start to throw away anything that I knew or that I thought I knew about the houses and started rebuilding my understanding of astrology and especially of the houses, just based on, is there either an astronomical rationale for this, or is there a conceptual rationale for this. And if there is, then I will use it, and if there is not, then I will not use it. Basically, I wanted to have a reason that made sense for every single one of the significations that the houses, as well as the rest of astrology for that matter, and that’s what I’ve been doing for the past ten years is developing my understanding and trying to reconstruct and understand the original motivation underlying Western astrology, and underlying every single one of the techniques, because it turns out that almost every single technique has some sort of important astronomical or conceptual rationale underlying it. And astrology actually works better and is more effective when you understand what those rationales are, because then you actually have a better vantage point on how to apply the techniques, and when to apply certain techniques versus when to apply others. And how to integrate some of those techniques with modern techniques, and so on and so forth. Basically, it is just all around a better a deal when you understand how astrology, how the techniques you’re using were developed.
So I’ve been working on that for the past 10 years, and as I’ve said over the past year or two I’ve been going through my Saturn return, and one of the things that I’m doing is revising my Introduction to Hellenistic Astrology course. I’m finishing up a series of lectures right now and earlier this year. One of the lectures was on the domicile lord or the ruler of the Ascendant, and showing how the ruler of the Ascendant was interpreted when it was placed in each of the 12 houses, and how this becomes actually a very important planet in a person’s natal chart. It becomes one of the most important planets, the ruler of the Ascendant, and its house placement, in showing some of the major topics and themes that the person’s life becomes focused on, and in some instances, almost become part of the person’s life purpose in some broader sense. So two of the things I did that were long term research projects that I was putting into this, and then I wrapped up earlier this year, a few months ago, before I finished it and recorded the lecture, which ended up being ten hours long, which I recorded over the course of a few days, is—one thing I did is I compiled a collection of a few hundred example charts, of modern example charts, that I could use, that had reliable birth data and exact or very close to exact birth times. So I was using only—basically, I built a database of only Rodden-rated AA data, so data with birth times that usually came from either the birth certificate or from a birth announcement, so that there’s no question about the rising sign and no question about the birth time. I built up a few hundred example charts so I could go through, and what I ended up doing was having at least four or five, if not more, examples of the ruler of the Ascendant in each of the 12 houses, and what kind of things that actually manifested in the person’s life. And what kind of topics associated with that house actually became prominent in the person’s life as a result of that placement. I did that, and at the same time, I also did a full-scale literature review of all of the different treatments by the different Hellenistic astrologers of the significations of the houses, as well as their delineation material for what they said, for example, when, let’s say, Mercury’s in the second house, and what that means, or when Saturn is in the ninth house and what their delineation is for that, so that I could actually study what the traditional conceptualization of the houses was, and so I could build a list of specific significations that were associated with each of the 12 houses in all of the different ancient authors, from the first century BCE until the seventh century CE.
One of the things that I was kind of surprised about when I did this is I finally was able to confirm that there was absolutely no evidence, and I was kind of almost expecting to see something, but I found in the end, no evidence for the 12-letter alphabet in the Hellenistic tradition. There’s just no evidence that they were deriving any of the significations of the houses from the 12-letter alphabet, where Aries equals the first house, or Taurus equals the second house, and so on and so forth. There’s no evidence either that they’re deriving significations from that, or that it even existed as a concept. I couldn’t even find any off-hand references to it. So basically it didn’t exist in the first seven or eight hundred years of the practice of Western astrology at least. Really, it doesn’t seem to come into play until the 14-1500s, maybe 1600s. So that didn’t exist in the Hellenistic tradition, and also, there were also some significations that some of the later medieval astrologers started associating with some of the houses that were also not in the Hellenistic tradition.
I was already pretty aware of this, but there were a few that I was expecting to find that I didn’t find. Especially, for example, with the third house. The third house in the medieval tradition, they actually start associating it with some of what I would refer to very generally speaking as Mercurial-type significations. For example, very early in the medieval tradition, the Arabic writers started associating the significations of messengers, emissaries, and messages with the third house. This is very important because I thought in doing this literature review that I might find some references to messages or messengers in the third house in the Hellenistic tradition, as a motivation for, or a motivating factor for where the medieval astrologers got this signification. However, I didn’t find that at all. Basically I found no references to messengers or messages or anything Mercurial other than the concept of travel in association with the third house. But the third house and the ninth house and the 12th and the sixth, all the cadent houses were already associated with travel in the Hellenistic tradition. So I didn’t think that there was anything really unique about associating the third house with travel in that context. And I was kind of surprised not to find any Mercurial-type, or at least significations associated with messengers or messages, in the third house.
This was problematic, and this becomes problematic, because then I started applying—I started going through the example charts and building up my examples of people who had the ruler of the Ascendant in each of the 12 houses and showing how the topics of those houses became very prominent in the person’s life. This actually turned out to be a very good way to demonstrate the significations and the meanings of each of the 12 houses because they come out very strongly when you have an important planet in the chart placed there, such as the ruler of the Ascendant. And one of the things that surprised me during this process is I started seeing a lot of what I would characterize as Mercurial type significations coming up with people who had strong third house placements, such as the ruler of the Ascendant in the third. One of those was a number of musicians: I had a number of musicians who had heavy third house placements, I had a number of writers who had third house placements, I had some scientists and I had some other people who just did communications in general, and a number of other things of that nature. Basically, generally speaking, what I conceptualize as Mercurial-type significations coming up in the third house that didn’t really seem to have much to do—I certainly did find a number of ones that did match the Hellenistic significations that they associated with the third house, which is things like siblings, travel, especially short distance travel, which I would still associate with the Moon rather than Mercury, religious matters, dreams, and other such sort of things. The Hellenistic significations are much more slanted in that direction of having to do with religious matters, dreams, to some extent, mysticism and occultism to a certain extent, and so on and so forth.
So I was able to justify and found plenty of examples of the Hellenistic significations, but I also started seeing these other significations that seemed to imply Mercurial-type significations. This started to bother me, because after 10 years of not using the 12-letter alphabet, all the sudden I was wondering again if perhaps I needed to take a second look at it, and if, even though it may have only started to have been used over the past hundred years very seriously, perhaps that was still a valid conceptual construct to use as a reference point for approaching some of the significations of the houses. Because one of the problems that I had, and that I feel like I still have to a certain extent with the Hellenistic, especially, and also to a certain extent the medieval and Renaissance, or generally the traditional significations or traditional approach to the significations of the houses, is that they’re a little bit more limited than what you have in modern astrology. Part of that, of course, is because they’re only basing it off of really three factors, the traditional astrologers are only basing it off of those three factors of angularity, configuration to the rising sign, and the joys of the planets. So of course their significations are going to be a bit more focused and a bit more limited when you’re only drawing on those factors. Whereas on the other extreme end of the spectrum, modern astrologers are drawing basically every possible signification from the signs of the zodiac as well as from the planets associated with those signs of the zodiac, and they’re just applying those interchangeably with the houses. So of course they have a much broader range of meaning to draw from when looking at certain house placements in modern astrology. On the one hand, that seems like a good thing because then you have more to draw on, and there’s more of a range of symbolism to draw on for understanding a certain placement when it comes to a person’s life, rather than, for example—the fifth house in Hellenistic astrology was largely just conceptualized as having to do with children. The third house was largely considered or conceptualized as having to do with siblings or friends. And so on and so forth. So those become the primary significations of the houses, which most of the delineations become geared towards in the Hellenistic tradition, so that you don’t expand them too far; to a certain extent you can, but they’re not expanded too far beyond that point, beyond, maybe, a half dozen or maybe a dozen significations, tops, for a given house. So one of the appeals certainly about the 12-letter alphabet and using that as, let’s say, a fourth conceptual construct, would be the ability to then have a reference point for adding some additional significations the houses. One of the questions that I started having when I started, after compiling a few hundred example charts and looking at the ruler of the Ascendant in the third house, for example, and seeing what seemed to be more Mercurial significations, is whether it wasn’t important then to take a second look at that model. Because it’s one of the only things that I could think of that could explain why some Mercurial significations were showing up in the third.
Now, before I was willing to go there, of course, because I had sort of sworn off that model for the past 10 years, for the most part, I tried to look at alternates, if there was alternate ways to justify the traditional, still using the traditional model, and developing Mercurial significations in association with the third [house], but not necessarily using the 12-letter alphabet. This actually, as I look through and I talk to different traditional astrologers, ends up being what all the traditional astrologers end up doing. They all try to resort to other things. For example, one of the things that most people notice, as soon as you start studying ancient history and ancient astrology, is that in Egypt, the god Thoth, who was the god associated with writing, was originally associated with the Moon, so Thoth was originally, or later, actually, became associated with Mercury. This becomes—they sort of blended it, or synthesized it together through the process of syncretism, and that became Hermes, or Hermes Trismegistus, which became associated with Mercury in the Hellenistic tradition. But prior to the Hellenistic tradition, in the Egyptian tradition, Thoth was associated with the Moon; it was actually a Moon god. So the god that the Egyptians originally associated with the Moon was actually the god of writing. So then, there becomes this question of well, maybe that’s the reason why we’re seeing or that I’m seeing some significations having to do with writing coming through in the third house. And that it doesn’t have to do with associating the third house with Gemini and through Gemini-Mercury, but instead it has to do with the Moon’s earlier Egyptian associations with the god of writing. And maybe there’s something about the Moon having its joy in the third house and the traditional association of the Moon with the third house that actually implies writing that isn’t immediately apparent, since writing in the Hellenistic and subsequent medieval and Renaissance traditions largely became associated with Mercury. Mercury’s generally, because of the Greeks, viewed as the god of communication and messages and things of that nature. So that was one thing that I considered and other people have also proposed, like Demetra George has pointed that out; Deborah Houlding points that out in her great book on the houses, where she explores this issue a little bit as well. Other people have pointed this out, and used this to attempt to defend the traditional associations of writing with the third house while still maintaining that the Moon is associated with the third rather than Mercury.
Because what happened is, there was this bit of an issue where I said earlier how writing and communication was not associated with the third house in the Hellenistic tradition. However, starting about the eighth century CE, in the early Arabic medieval tradition, for some reason, the significations of writing and messengers and emissaries gets inserted into the third house, sort of out of nowhere. And nobody fully has really seemed to be able to explain where this came from. But for some reason, some significations having to do with writing and communication get inserted into the third house, starting in the eighth century. What’s perplexing about this is that they still don’t have, from what we can tell, the 12-letter alphabet at this point. So it’s not actually, it doesn’t seem to be coming from an association of Gemini with the third house. But instead, they seem to have some other reason for inserting Mercurial-type significations into the third house at that point in time. We’ll come back to that later. So that creates a complication where even the medieval astrologers and the Renaissance astrologers, this gets expanded on even more, so that by the time of William Lilly, the Mercurial-type significations and association with the third house have been expanded a lot more beyond just messages and messengers to include a number of other things of that nature by the time of Lilly in the 17th century. Even traditional astrologers from the medieval and Renaissance period want to defend this traditional association that they inherited, of some Mercurial significations with the third house, but the problem is that they don’t really have a good conceptual structure for doing so. So one of the things they resort to is this point about the Egyptian god Thoth and its original association with the Moon. But the objection that I have to that is that that requires us to ignore the Hellenistic conceptualization of the Moon, which didn’t have anything to do with messages or with communication, as far as I can tell, so that basically instead of going with the conceptualization of the Moon that existed for apparently all the way from the first century BCE until the seventh century CE, for some reason, we decide to suddenly start associating the Moon with writing and communication again at that point, based on some Egyptian god’s meaning, which apparently didn’t even carry through forward enough into the Hellenistic tradition that people like Vettius Valens, who is living in Egypt, thought enough of it to actually associate writing with the Moon in his text. So that’s one of the objections that I have to that attempt to answer that from the standpoint of the Egyptian gods.
The other way that some traditional astrologers attempt to answer this question is by resorting to the Thema Mundi. The Thema Mundi is the mythical birth chart for the birth of the cosmos that has Cancer rising with the Moon in Cancer and the Sun in Leo, and Mercury in Virgo, and Venus in Libra, and Mars in Scorpio, and Jupiter in Sagittarius, and Saturn in Capricorn. One of the points that they make–every time I pose this question to a traditional astrologer who’s familiar with Hellenistic astrology—one of the ways they immediately attempt to defend it, and one of the ways that I originally tried to explore if we could derive some house significations from, was the associations from the fact that in the Thema Mundi, for example, Virgo is on the third house. Virgo’s the third house and ruled by Mercury, and Mercury’s in the third house in the Thema Mundi. So then the thinking goes that perhaps some of the Mercurial significations, in association with the third house, are actually being derived from that, rather than from the 12-letter alphabet and associating Gemini with the third house. The problem I have with that—I explored this possibility at one point when I was looking at the Octotopos, which is the system of houses—it’s not a system of houses; it’s just an approach to giving significations to a set of significations for the first eight whole sign houses, starting from the Ascendant and going in zodiacal order. The first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth houses, it’s a set of significations, usually just one signification for each of those first eight houses. So at one point, when I was trying to understand the rational for that set of houses and the significations given in it, I explored perhaps that it came from deriving significations from the Thema Mundi. Or that some of the Hellenistic significations that got established in the early tradition were derived from the Thema Mundi. And some of it makes a little bit of sense. For example, the Moon is repeatedly, in the Hellenistic tradition, associated with the body of the native. It’s interesting that the Moon is in the first house in the Thema Mundi, and the first house is also associated with the body of the native, and their physical vitality, as I talked about a little bit earlier. Similarly, you might be able to get away with associating the Sun, which, in Hellenistic astrology, is associated with the substance of gold—it’s actually associated with gold in Hellenistic astrology as well as most subsequent traditions of astrology because of its color—the Sun is associated with gold and perhaps as a result of that, or in connection with that, the second house is usually associated with money and finances.
Then third house and Virgo, the fourth house becomes a little bit questionable, whether we could associate Venus, perhaps, maybe it’s the house is generally associated with the parents and the home, so maybe Venus because it has to do with positive things, or with love or what have you, that it would be associated with a person’s family unit. Mars, interestingly, and Scorpio, are associated with the fifth house in the Thema Mundi, which actually might make some sense of some of the later medieval associations, where sex was usually said to be associated with the fifth house, although that becomes a little bit of a stretch because most of the medieval associations with the fifth house had to do with Venus, and the fact that Venus had her joy in the fifth, rather than associating it with Mars and Scorpio. But nonetheless, maybe there’s some overlap there, but it’s not fully clear. The one that I really had problems with was Sagittarius and Jupiter in association with the sixth house, because the traditional conceptualization of the sixth house was largely pretty negative and having to do with illness and slaves and things of that nature. And also enemies. There were certainly some positive manifestations of the sixth house, and they said there were certain ways in which the sixth house could be used in positive or productive ways, ways in which it could become chrematistikos, or become advantageous. And I certainly have seen that in example charts. But it still seems like a bit of a stretch to associate Sagittarius and Jupiter with the sixth, or at least, it’s not immediately evident how one would do that. Then finally we have Saturn in the seventh as associated with relationships, but that seems like kind of a stretch to me. The only way that you might be able to work that out is that the seventh, in some of the Hellenistic authors, was actually originally associated with death, because that’s where the Sun sets each day. So there were two different traditions: there was one tradition that came from a text described to Hermes, and in the Hermes text, they associated death with the seventh, which actually might make sense in the context of the Sun setting but also Saturn in the Thema Mundi being associated with the seventh house. But then there was this other, alternate textual tradition from Asclepius, or this text that was ascribed to Asclepius, that associated death with the eighth house. Eventually what happened is the eighth house won out, and most astrologers later ended up following the eighth house association with death and forgetting about the seventh house association from Hermes. So on that point, it becomes kind of arguable whether or not the Saturn and seventh house association would make sense, or not, since it primarily came to be associated with marriages in the Hellenistic tradition, and I’m not sure in that context if the seventh house Saturn association makes as much sense. So that becomes my objection to referring to the Thema Mundi and attempting to use that as the conceptual construct, and the way to validate this preconceived notion that Mercury or Mercurial significations should somehow be associated with the third house. Or even with the observation, in my case, where I started to come to the conclusion that perhaps there were some Mercurial-type significations associated with the third, based on looking at a bunch of example charts. But that’s my objection to deriving that from the Thema Mundi, which is the direction that some traditional astrologers want to go in in order to attempt to make that make sense.
Where we get to at this point with this is that I’m actually at sort of a crossroads, where I feel like I could go either way, because I feel pretty strong and pretty confident about my understanding of the basic meanings of the houses as originally derived from traditional concepts and traditional sources, especially from the Hellenistic tradition and to a lesser extent I’ve incorporated some medieval significations and a few modern significations into the houses where they don’t really conflict with each other, where they seem to make conceptual sense to me. But I’m at sort of a conceptual crossroads where I’m trying to decide this issue of…there’s basically two completely different systems that astrologers use, and most people don’t realize, I think, how serious the differences are, and how much this actually represents one of the most significant conceptual and technical rifts in between the traditional and modern astrological communities, that traditional astrologers are basing most of their house significations on one model that has to do with those three things of configuration to the Ascendant, angularity, and the planetary joys; and then modern astrologers are basing their conceptual model for the houses largely on the 12-letter alphabet, or what I actually should be referring to and what I think is usually referred to as the “natural house” associations. I think it’s called “natural houses,” where Aries equals the first house, and Taurus equals the second house and so on and so forth. So, as I hope I’ve shown, even though there’s some overlap between those two sometimes, there’s interesting overlaps, there’s a lot of major differences. They’re completely different models that have a few overlaps, but otherwise, there’s a lot of conflicts between them. For example, a traditional astrologer would largely associate the fifth house with Venus, whereas a modern astrologer would associate the fifth house with Leo and with the Sun. The differences between those two are pretty clear. The 11th house, a traditional astrologer would associate with Jupiter; however, a modern astrologer would associate that house with either Uranus or, if he was using the traditional rulerships and he was a modern astrologer, for some reason, he would associate it with Saturn. So, that’s a big difference. You’ve got either Uranus or Saturn for the 11th house, or, from a traditional standpoint you have Jupiter. Similarly for the 12th house, from a traditional standpoint, it is a house that’s largely associated with Saturn, whereas from a modern standpoint, since it’s associated with Pisces, you’ve either got Neptune, which is what most modern astrologers use as the primary planet that’s informing the house significations, or, if for some reason the modern astrologer’s using the traditional rulerships, you would have Jupiter.
I guess that actually what I’m referring to there presents another issue, that even if, for example, myself as a traditional—I don’t want to say traditional because I use both traditional and modern concepts—but as a more traditional-leaning astrologer, since I use the traditional rulerships, even if I was to adopt the natural house rulerships, the natural house associations, I would still use the traditional rulerships for each of the signs of the zodiac. So Saturn would be associated with Aquarius, and Pisces would be associated with Jupiter. So, that even of itself would present a bit of a different model compared to what the modern astrologers are using in associating the planets or the signs of the zodiac with each of the houses. That becomes part of the issue, is the question in front of us, and I don’t think many people have talked a lot about this because [in] most traditional astrologers, I’ve noticed two tendencies. Either they tend to completely reject the natural house associations, and completely go back to the traditional sources and only use those, or in some instances, like for example with Demetra George, she advocates using both. So she largely goes back to the traditional associations, but she does incorporate some significations into the houses from the natural house or the 12-letter alphabet associations, although she does so in a somewhat limited way. Basically my concern is what the best approach is to take now. And that’s something that I’m starting to explore. One of the things is I’m trying to see if some of the significations I’m finding in example charts as associated with certain houses like the third house, if there could be other reasons or other means of explaining those significations besides resorting to the 12-letter alphabet.
On a discussion over the past few days with Mark Cullen, who is from Scotland, on the Skyscript forum, he’s actually done a pretty good job of convincing me and pointing out, contrary to what I originally thought, that the Moon itself was originally associated with travel in the Hellenistic tradition. He made a very good point about that and about the Moon generally being associated with travel, which he then argues that, with the Moon being a planet that’s particularly associated with travel and being assigned to the third house traditionally, that actually it’s not as much of a jump conceptually to then go on to the concept of messengers and messages as being derived from that. At first I was kind of actually very hesitant or very resistant to that idea, because it did actually seem like a pretty big conceptual jump to me, but once he had demonstrated and made the point about the Moon signifying travel, it actually started making me think about a change that occurred in the early medieval tradition that actually may explain why the medieval astrologers started associating the Moon with messengers and people like that, emissaries, whereas the Hellenistic astrologers didn’t. One of the things I was thinking about last night is what changed in between the Hellenistic and medieval tradition. One of the things I realized is that one of the practices that developed a lot more in between the end of the Hellenistic tradition and the beginning of the medieval tradition was the practice of horary astrology. So that already by some of the early Arabic authors in the late eighth century, such as Masha’allah and Sahl ibn Bishr, you already have them introducing the concepts of transfer of light, or which is also known as translation of light, and other concepts such as collection of light. These concepts I think were introduced largely, or partially, as being motivated by horary, because in horary astrology as it was developed by the medieval period is largely about looking for significators and looking at the chart and seeing if those significators can perfect an aspect or not. So basically, for example, in a question, in a horary question about a relationship, you have to see if the ruler of the Ascendant is applying to an exact aspect to the ruler of the seventh house. And if it is, then the answer to the question about the relationship is yes, but if it is not applying, then the answer to the question is no. So that conceptual model becomes a little restrictive if you’re only using normal aspects between the planets. So I think this actually becomes the motivation for why concepts such as transfer of light were introduced, and it’s because it adds an additional set of considerations or additional set of variables that you can take into account in order to determine if two planets are applying to each other or not. Because it makes it so that you don’t just have to have planet A applying to planet B; but instead, you can have planet C, like a third intermediary planet, that separates from one planet and then applies to another, and thus transfers the light, or transfers something between them and allows the question to come out with an affirmative or a positive answer. As I was thinking about that last night, I realized that that actually might be the astronomical or the conceptual rationale that could’ve motivated the introduction of the signification of messengers into the third house in the early medieval tradition. They wouldn’t necessarily have been getting it from Mercury, but instead they would’ve been getting it from the Moon, because the Moon is the fastest moving celestial body, it’s the fastest quote-unquote planet. And typically when you’re looking at something like transfer or translation of light, it’s gonna involve the Moon separating from one planet and applying to another. From that standpoint, I could actually see how they might derive from that some symbolic conceptualization of messengers, or how they might have associated messengers with that, because if you think about what a messenger does, especially back in the medieval period, you write down, let’s say, a letter, and you literally hand it to a messenger, and you say, take this to this other person who’s on the other side of the city, and they physically take the letter and then they transfer it, or transport it, to that other person. In the same way, symbolically, they probably conceptualized, they clearly did conceptualize the Moon as separating from one planet and taking something of the essence of that planet and then basically carrying it over to the other planet and giving it to the other planet. Which symbolically they could’ve associated with messengers, which by extension then could’ve been subsequently associated with things like messages, which is the actual thing that is carried. Or at least that’s where my thinking has started to go with that.
This has been kind of a long, digressive sort of roller coaster discussion, and part of that is because my thoughts on it have gone back and forth over the course of the past few months, where it’s been kind of a roller coaster where all of a sudden I’m thinking, oh wow, there’s no real good conceptual way to come up with these Mercurial significations and association with the third house, but there seems to be some sort of almost Mercurial significations with the third house. Does that mean that the natural house, or the 12-letter alphabet associations of Gemini with the third house, is something that’s necessary to import into the traditional system in order to explain that? Or is there some other reason? And so I would go back and forth between the 12-letter alphabet thing being almost like a conceptual necessity, or going back and seeing ways in which perhaps, for example, like the example of translation of light, like I just said, where perhaps symbolically you could derive some of those significations that started to develop in the third house in the medieval tradition.
There isn’t really any sort of conclusion to this at this point, and that’s actually more or less where I’m gonna leave it because that’s basically as far as I’ve gotten at this point. I think at this point in time, I’m more receptive to possibly entertaining the 12-letter alphabet model and integrating it into my system, maybe, but I do have some major objections to it. I do think it really has made modern astrology—the way that modern astrologers have over applied it has made their astrology kind of sloppy. Because they just take it for granted and because it’s almost the only conceptual model that they use, and they don’t realize that that wasn’t actually where the significations of the houses were derived from originally. And they think that that’s the only model that could be used in order to derive the significations, as well as that it’s the best model. They kind of go a little overboard on it. The problem with that is that when you treat the signs of the zodiac as being completely interchangeable with the houses, and completely interchangeable with the planets that are ruled by those signs, then everything means the same thing. Then the fifth house means Leo, means the Sun, and so on and so forth. But the problem with that, the ultimate conclusion of that, unfortunately, is that when everything means everything, then nothing means anything, basically. It becomes too sloppy, and it becomes too easy to justify just about anything you want to see in the chart. This is where astrology becomes less of an objective means of actually determining information about a person’s life, and being able to look at an astrological chart and actually say valid things about a person’s life or about a person’s future. Instead, it becomes more of this guessing game of, you have all these different significators in different places, but they could mean hundreds of different things, and it’s really like throwing a dart at a board, and just picking out a random signification, and you’ve got something. And it may or may not be correct. There’s something a little bit too sloppy about that that makes me hesitant to get fully on board with the 12-letter alphabet natural house associations.
At this point I feel a little ambivalent about which way to go. I think at the moment, at least, I’ve been talked around a little bit towards seeing how some of the third house significations that medieval and Renaissance astrologers started associating with the third house could be explained purely in terms of the Moon and purely in terms of the natural meaning of the third house. But I’m still open to having my mind changed because I could also see how conceptually—and I guess I should take a minute, because I haven’t done this yet, to push back a little bit against the traditional astrologers and say there might be something valid in the way that the natural house association takes the basic concept that there’s something about the different segments of the 360 degree circle that have some sort of inherent meaning. There’s almost some sort of Pythagorean notion underlying that that is appealing, that, when you’re a western astrologer, you’re typically using the tropical zodiac, and so you’re not deriving the meanings of the signs of the zodiac from the constellations, and from the images supposedly associated with the signs of the zodiac. Instead, you’re deriving a conceptual construct from the starting point, which is the vernal equinox. And then you’re making this–you then divide it into four quadrants, which are the spring quadrant, starting from Aries and going through Gemini and Cancer; then you’ve got the second quadrant, which is the summer. I guess, I’m couching this in terms of the northern hemisphere, of course, being a northern hemisphere person and being that the tropical zodiac is notoriously northern-hemisphere-centric, but it doesn’t even have to be. The point is just that the presumption is that the vernal equinox acts as a viable starting point both in the northern and the southern hemisphere. And that simply because you’re using that as the starting point, it means that the first 30 degree segment, measured out from the degree of the vernal equinox, means something that is associated with the concept of Aries. Or that we give that a name, we call it Aries, but it’s actually a cluster of concepts that are associated with the first 30 degrees of the cycle. And then the second 30 degrees of the cycle is associated with the cluster of concepts we associate with Taurus. And the third 30 degree segment is associated with the cluster of concepts that we refer to as Gemini, and so on and so forth. This is largely developed out of Rudhyar’s work, because Rudhyar was the one who came in and in 1936, in his book, The Astrology of Personality, as well as in subsequent books, he really tried to re-formulate modern astrology along different lines. He tried to do exactly what they did 2,000 years ago, which is basically figure out what the astronomical basis was of what we’re deriving the symbolism from, and then develop the symbolism further based on that astronomical basis. One of the things that he did a lot of work on was looking at different cycles, like the cycle of the Sun and the cycle of the Moon, and looking at different segments of those cycles as having some sort of inherent quality or some sort of inherent meaning. And this becomes the rationale for the natural house associations. And this becomes something that I could see as being defensible to a certain extent, which is that just as the zodiac then becomes a 360 circle associated with the ecliptic that we assign certain qualities because those qualities are thought to be inherently associated with those different segments, such as Cancer and the qualities associated with Cancer being associated with the 90 degree, approximately, part of the cycle. Or Libra being associated with the 180 degree part of the cycle. Or Capricorn being associated with the second 90 degree, the closing or waning 90 degree portion of the cycle. I could see somebody making an argument that might be viable in a traditional context that because we start the cycle of the houses from the rising sign, and from the first house, that there’s something about the first segment, as measured out from the rising sign, that has some, not necessarily all, but has some of the underlying archetypal qualities associated with Aries. And that there’s something about the second segment that has some sort of similar association with the archetypal qualities of Taurus. And the third house has something associated with the archetypal qualities associated with Gemini and so on and so forth.
One of the points that I raised in the Skyscript thread, where Mark Cullen was objecting to this as a traditional astrologer, was that he didn’t think that some of the planetary associations made sense. For example, traditional astrologers would associate Jupiter with the 12th house, or Saturn, as the traditional ruler of Aquarius, with the 11th house. But one of the points I made was that I think that we would have to focus mainly on the quality of the signs of the zodiac. If the argument that we’re going to make for the natural house associations, or that modern astrologers are going to make for it, or if I was to make that argument, if I was to fully adopt it—which I’m not necessarily at this point, but I might at some point in the future, possibly—is, if the argument is that just by dividing a 360 circle that into 12 parts that each of those 12 parts shares certain qualities just by virtue of the fact that they take place, that those segments are at certain parts, or certain portions of that cycle, if that becomes a large part of the basis for the tropical zodiac, which I think I would agree more or less that it is to a certain extent, then you could make an argument that some of that could be transferred then to the cycle of the houses. Even though the cycle of the houses normally is based on the diurnal rotation, which goes the opposite direction—the houses have always been measured out in zodiacal order, so starting with the house, then going counterclockwise, the second house, then the third, then the fourth, fifth, and so on and so forth, and the reason for that is because that is the order in which the planets move through the houses. So the planets do not move through—at least in transits, once you actually have the basic natal chart set up, and you run transits through it, the planets are able to move through each of the 12 houses in zodiacal order. As a result of that, [for] each of the 12 houses you could transfer some of the qualities from the 360 degree cycle of the zodiac and the different segments that each part of the zodiac represents to the 12 houses. So I think there might be something defensible about that part—if you’re listening to this as a modern astrologer who’s familiar with all of the ways that Rudhyar or other modern astrologers who explain this in the more advanced versions, I realize that you’re already fully on board with that, and you think that that is the conceptual model for the houses in the first place, so you probably wouldn’t necessarily understand why I’m even wrestling with this. But I’m wrestling with it because most traditional astrologers and anyone focusing on astrology from prior to the 20th century realizes that the houses were originally based on a different conceptual model. And once you’ve adopted that model, which I think is a more, at least in its basis, it’s a more elegant and more conceptually consistent model, its hard then to incorporate a completely foreign model which is what the 12-letter alphabet appears to be. And I think that it really requires a lot of thought ahead of time in order to decide if this is something that actually really makes sense on its own conceptually and is appropriate and is valid, versus just adopting it because that’s what you’re used to and because that’s what you learned when you first got into astrology. Since that’s usually what, for better or worse, people tend to do. New students of astrology get into astrology, they learn the system through whatever books or whatever teacher they happen to find when they first got into it, and that tends to be the system that they stick with from that point forward. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best approach.
That’s why, basically for both camps, for modern astrologers, I would really recommend you look into the traditional rationale for the rationale for the significations of the houses and see how it’s different, and see what it might give you in terms of a better understanding of where some of the core significations of the houses come from, and how they could be derived outside of the 12-letter alphabet model. That’s what I’d recommend for modern astrologers. Conversely, for traditional astrologers I would recommend looking at this issue and not necessarily immediately rejecting the 12-letter alphabet model out of hand, because of how—I think in some instances I would agree—badly modern astrologers have misappropriated it in the past few decades, or how it’s been a little bit over-applied so that the system has become kind of sloppy as a result of it. I would not completely discount it simply as a result of that, especially since, as we can tell with some of the later texts like Lilly’s, some of that was starting to become integrated into the tradition towards the end of it. And we don’t know if it would’ve continued to go in that direction had there not been this break in the tradition and the introduction of the outer planets and some of that other stuff. It very well may have still gone in that direction as a further development of astrology. That becomes ultimately the main issue here, this question of: Can astrology grow and develop, and can other concepts be added in later, without completely ruining or destroying the consistency and the accuracy of the traditional system? I think the answer in some instances is clearly yes, because not all traditional concepts that some later traditional astrologers associate with the tradition were necessarily always there. Horary is a good example of that, or for example—used earlier in this lecture—transfer of light or translation of light as a concept that doesn’t seem to have existed in Hellenistic tradition but instead seems to have been introduced in the medieval tradition and seems to be a perfectly valid concept, especially within the context of horary. That’s an example where sometimes new techniques and new conceptual constructs can be introduced and they can be just as valid as the ones that came before. For traditional astrologers, I would definitely recommend—I understand the purpose of rejecting the 12-letter alphabet and coming to a place where you can understand the significations of the houses on their own merits, and I think certain people like Deborah Houlding, for example, did an excellent job of doing that, and needed to do that; traditional astrologers over the past 20 years needed to do that in order to clear the air so there could be a discussion about the basic significations of the houses that didn’t immediately assume that all the significations must be derived from the signs of the zodiac. I understand how that was necessary, and is necessary, for many people in order to gain a clearer view of how the meanings of the houses originally developed.
But now I think we do need to seriously look at the question of whether there is any validity to the natural houses or the 12-letter alphabet scheme and if it can be—or should be, I guess I should say—reconciled with the traditional system, or if it should not. And I think that different astrologers are gonna come to different conclusions about this, because this issue has only become clear in the past 10 or 20 years. Because it’s only recently that we’ve suddenly realized that the 12-letter alphabet is a new development in the past century or so, and we’ve also recovered the original approach to how the significations were originally derived and developed for the houses, now we can actually make a deliberate choice and a conscious choice about what to do and what systems to use and what systems not to use. Whatever we end up choosing, I think is gonna have a huge impact on the history of astrology from here on out, at this point in the tradition and on future generations of astrologers. So, whatever we do, I just feel like we need to do it very deliberately and stop taking things for granted just because they’re part of the tradition, but instead focus on that core piece of astrology that I talked about and emphasized earlier, which is that I think the best parts of astrology or the best applications of astrology are those that are clearly derived either from some specific astronomical placement or something that is specifically astronomically observable, or some astronomical fact that is objectively true, but that has some sort of symbolic interpretation that can be drawn from it. Or, second, something that can be derived from some secondary conceptual model that makes sense on its own terms and is internally consistent. And it needs to be completely internally consistent with all parts of the system, at least to the best that that can happen.
Those are the two things that I think we need to do in order to work out this house system issue. And if we stick to those two rules, I think whatever way we end up deciding to go, we’ll be in good shape. So that’s my, what, hour and forty-two-minute-long discursion into the current issue that’s facing myself, but also I think more broadly facing the astrological community today, regarding the rationale for the significations of the houses. And these two broad areas, these two different approaches, which is basically the traditional approach to determining the house significations and the modern approach to determining the house significations, and the question of whether we should, now that we’ve revived the traditional approach and now that we’ve seen the modern approach for what it is in terms of being a more recent development, whether we should attempt to synthesize those two approaches or whether we should keep them apart. Different astrologers are coming to different conclusions about that. My friend Benjamin Dykes says no, we should keep them apart, and he prefers to just stick with the traditional system, and he’s found interesting ways of deriving additional significations from the houses just based on the traditional thing. That’s one of the things that’s interesting, that even if traditional astrologers decide to stick with the rejection of the 12-letter alphabet, that doesn’t mean we have to just stick with only the significations of the houses that we have inherited from the tradition. We could actually still derive, once we understand the basic principles of how the significations of the houses came about, which we do, we can develop additional or new significations just by thinking about what the conceptual motivation is for the significations of certain houses. So we can still add additional significations to that system, just like the medieval and the Renaissance astrologers were already doing when they were adding significations on top of the ones that they inherited from the Hellenistic tradition. Some astrologers, like traditional astrologers like my friend Benjamin Dykes, have chosen to do that, and that’s their approach. Other astrologers, like my friend Demetra George, have decided that both systems have some validity and she uses the Hellenistic and the traditional system as her basis, but she does integrate some significations from the natural house assignments, or from the 12-letter alphabet, and she sees that as a valid addition to, and additional consideration like a fourth or fifth additional consideration, on top of the other considerations that are already used for determining the significations the houses in traditional astrology. So those, to me, look like the two different approaches that people could take; serious astrologers who are really thinking about this issue and want to make a deliberate choice—those seem to be your two options. I’m not sure if there are others, there might be others in there, but those seem to be the two options.
The purpose of this show is just to talk about this issue to try and get some of my thoughts out there on it, despite how undeveloped or non-very-well-put-together it may have been because I just threw together a few bullet points and decided to talk on them just in order to get this on tape, and also just to do another show since I knew a few people have been asking me to do one, and to let people know some of the topics I’ve been working on and what’s on my mind. So I hope that this has been somewhat useful or informative and it’s given you some food for thought. I definitely am interested in hearing from other people and hearing from other perspectives. I’m not necessarily interested in hearing from people that are only familiar with the 12-letter alphabet approach and just want to convince me that’s the best approach, but I am interested in hearing from people who are familiar with both the traditional and the modern approaches and have spent some time studying both of them, and weighing their relative merits and pros and cons. I would be interested in hearing from you, to let me know what conclusion you make, or have taken on this issue, and on this conceptual problem. Have you decided to just stick with the traditional approach that’s only basing the significations off of a few key factors, or do you think that the 12-letter alphabet is something that’s valid to integrate in order to develop some of the significations of the houses? So definitely let me know what you come up with. My thoughts on this issue are certainly still in transition and I’m still in the process of figuring it out for myself. I’m sure, before too long, I’ll sort of have made a decision and maybe we can talk about it again on the show at some point. But until then, I’ll just be thinking about it and I look forward to hearing what other people think about the topic as well.
All right, well that’s it for this episode of The Astrology Podcast. If you enjoyed the podcast, you can subscribe to it; there’s a subscribe button on the right-hand side bar, I believe, of TheAstrologyPodcast.com, so if you sign up for it, you’ll get an e-mail every time a new show is posted. If you enjoyed the episode, and you listen to it on iTunes, as always, please give it a good rating on iTunes. If you like the show and you want to help promote it, then tell other people about it, or post a link to it on your website or what have you. Any forms of promotion of that nature are helpful and will certainly help me continue to do future shows. So, that’s it for this episode. Thanks for listening and I’ll see you next time.